Skip to main content

Enlightenment America and the Hierarchy of Races: Disputes Over the Writing of History in the Encyclopaedia Britannica(1768-1788)*

  • Silvia Sebastiani (a1)

In the 1780s, the dispute about the New World entered a new phase. Creole voices redesigned the spatial, political, and economic matrix of modern thought about race within an Atlantic framework. By focusing on the changing eighteenth-century entry on “America,” this article considers the successful commercial enterprise of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which was conceived in Scotland. It examines the intellectual shift in reference from the Scottish Enlightenment of William Robertson to the antiquarian history advocated by Francisco Xavier Clavijero, a Mexican Jesuit, exiled in the Papal States. The new cartography of knowledge endorsed by the Encyclopaedia led to a racial classification associating Scriptures and providential history.

Hide All

This paper is the result of research undertaken with a Marie Curie postdoctoral scholarship at the EHESS. Parts of it have been discussed during several international symposia (in Budapest, Florence, Trieste, São Paulo, Edinburgh, and Mexico City), as well as at the EHESS in the seminar on the history of missions and in that on Britishness. I would like to thank all those who, on these various occasions, contributed with diverse questions and, in particular, those who followed the evolution of this latest version: Catherine Bouchey, Adrien Delmas, Alice Ingold, Antoine Lilti, Jacques Revel, Antonella Romano, Hélène Soldini, and Stéphane Van Damme.

Hide All

1. Gerbi Antonello, La disputa del Nuovo Mondo: storia di una polemica. 1750-1900 (Milan: R. Ricciardi, 1955; repr. 1983); Gliozzi Giuliano, Adamo e il Nuovo Mondo. La nascita dell’antropologia come ideologia coloniale: dalle genealogie alle teorie razziali 1500-1700 (Florence: Sansoni, 1977); and Pagden Anthony, The Fall of Natural Man: The American Indian and the Origins of Comparative Ethnology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982; repr. 1986). The most recent contributions to the New-World dispute in the eighteenth century include: Cañizares-Esguerra Jorge, How to Write the History of the New World: Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001); Pocock John G. A., Barbarism and Religion, vol. 4, Barbarians, Savages and Empires (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); and Cipolloni Marco and Wolff Larry, eds., The Anthropology of the Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007).

2. I will only refer here to two recent Anglophone publications related to a field of study that has considerably developed since the 1990s: Bailyn Bernard and Denault Patricia L., eds., Soundings in Atlantic History: Latent Structures and Intellectual Currents, 1500-1830 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009); Canny Nicholas and Morgan Philip, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World. 1450-1850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). Among the most recent publications on the role and position of Creoles, see: Stewart Charles, ed., Creolization: History, Ethnography, Theory (Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, 2006); Bauer Ralph and Antonio Mazzotti José, eds., Creole Subjects in the Colonial Americas: Empires, Texts, Identities (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

3. William Smellie, ed., preface to Encyclopaedia Britannica, or a Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, Compiled Upon a New Plan ... by a Society of Gentlemen in Scotland, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: A. Bell and C. Macfarquhar, 1771), 1:v (hereafter cited in text as EB1).

4. The only monograph dedicated to the Britannica in the eighteenth century is Kafker Frank A. and Loveland Jeff, eds., The Early Britannica: The Growth of an Outstanding Encyclopedia (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2009).

5. About the biography of Andrew Bell (1726-1809) and Colin Macfarquhar (1745 circa-1793) see Kafker Frank A., “The Achievement of Andrew Bell and Colin Macfarquhar as the First Publishers of the Encyclopaedia Britannica ,” British Journal for the Eighteenth-Century Studies 18-2 (1995): 139-52 .

6. Recent research has focused on William Smellie (1740-1795): Kafker Frank A., “William Smellie’s Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica ,” in Notable Encyclopaedias of the Late Eighteenth Century: Eleven Successors of the Encyclopédie, ed. Kafker Frank A. (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1994), 145-82 ; Brown Stephen W., “William Smellie and the Culture of the Edinburgh Book Trade, 1752-1795,” in The Culture of the Book in the Scottish Enlightenment, eds. Emerson Roger et al. (Toronto: University of Toronto, 2000), 61-86 ; Loveland Jeff, “French Thought in William Smellie’s Natural History: A Scottish Reception of Buffon and Condillac,” in Scotland and France in the Enlightenment, eds. Dawson Deidre and Morère Pierre (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2004), 192-217 ; and Loveland Jeff, “Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle in English. 1775-1815,” Archives of Natural History 31 (2004): 214-35 . In the early 1760s, Smellie founded the Newtonian Society in Edinburgh. He was also a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the Society of Antiquaries, which, on his proposal, elected Diderot and Buffon as honorary members in 1781.

7. Kerr Robert, Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Correspondence of William Smellie, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: J. Anderson, 1811), 1:362-63 .

8. “Abridgement,” EB1 1:6.

9. The editors were all mentioned on the frontispiece of the Second Edition: Tytler James, ed., Encyclopaedia Britannica; or, a Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, & c. On a Plan Entirely New ... 2nd Edition; Greatly Improved and Enlarged, 10 vols. (Edinburgh: J. Balfour, W. Gordon, J. Bell, J. Dickson, C. Elliot, W. Creech, J. McCliesh, A. Bell, J. Hutton, and C. Macfarquhar, 1778-1783) (hereafter cited in text as EB2). On the role of editors as agents of the Scottish Enlightenment, see Sher Richard B., The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland and America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006). On Charles Elliot, see: McDougall Warren, “Charles Elliot and the London Booksellers in the Early Years,” in The Human Face of the Book Trade: Print Culture and Its Creators, eds. Isaac Peter and McKay Barry (Winchester: St. Paul’s Bibliographies, 1999), 81-96 ; Isaac Peter, “Charles Elliot and the English Provincial Book Trade,” in The Human Face of the Book Trade: Print Culture and Its Creators, eds. Isaac Peter and McKay Barry (Winchester: St. Paul’s Bibliographies, 1999), 97-116 .

10. After his collaboration on the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Tytler was prosecuted for sedition and fled to the United States in the early 1790s. On his unfortunate life and career, see: Meek Robert, A Biographical Sketch of the Life of James Tytler, For a Considerable Time a Liberal Contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Edinburgh: Denovan, 1805); Fergusson James, Balloon Tytler (London: Faber, 1972).

11. See Darnton Robert, The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1979 ).

12. “Introduction,” EB2 1:v.

13. Monthly Review, 75 (1786): 181-89, 321-31, and 401-8; see also Monthly Review, 50 (1774): 301-9.

14. Kafker and Loveland, Early Britannica, 161-75; Archibald Constable to Richard Phillips, 22 December 1812, Agreement, Minutes and Letters Relating to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1812-1822, fol. 138, X032EN1, Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, New York; Archibald Constable to Joseph Robinson, Autumn 1812, in Constable Thomas, Archibald Constable and His Literary Correspondents, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1873), 2:311-17 .

15. Colin Macfarquhar (ed., vols. 1-12) and George Gleig (ed., vols. 13-18), Encyclopaedia Britannica; or a Dictionary of Arts, Sciences and Miscellaneous Literature ... The Third Edition ... Greatly Improved (Edinburgh: A. Bell and C. Macfarquhar, 1797) (hereafter cited in text as EB3). Kerr (Memoirs 1:361-63) and Sher (The Enlightenment and the Book, 216) record earnings amounting to £ 42,000 for the third edition alone.

16. George Gleig (1753-1840) was educated in a Jacobite and Episcopalian family committed to the Stuart cause. Politically prosecuted, the Episcopalians only acknowledged Georges III’s legitimacy upon the death of the Stuart heir Charles Edward in 1788. In the context of a dialogue between Presbyterians and Episcopalians, Gleig presented his proposal for an encyclopedia. It must also be noted that William Robertson, in his capacity as leader of the Presbyterian Church, advocated a position of openness and tolerance toward Episcopalians and Catholics. See: Walker William, Life of the Right Reverend George Gleig, LL.D, F.S.S.A., Bishop of Brenchin, and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church (Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1878); Grub George, Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, 4 vols. (Edinburgh: Edmonstone & Douglas, 1861), 4:99, 124-35 , and 174-89; and Mather Frederick C., “Church, Parliament and Penal Laws: Some Anglo-Scottish Interactions in the Eighteenth Century,” English Historical Review 92 (1977): 540-72 .

17. Gleig George, ed., Supplement to the Third Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, or, a Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: T. Bonar, 1801), iii-iv . Due to litigations with Macfarquhar’s heirs, who refused the publication of the Supplement, Bell also had to withdraw. For the publication of his project, Gleig turned to Bell’s son-in-law, Thomas Bonar, a wine merchant and businessman. For a detailed view of this case, see Kafker and Loveland , Early Britannica, 253-62 .

18. Dobson Thomas, ed., Encyclopaedia; or, a Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature ... The First American Edition ... Greatly Improved (Philadelphia: Dobson, 1790-1798) (hereafter cited in text as EA). On the American edition, see Arner Robert D., Dobson’s Encyclopaedia: the Publisher, Text, and Publication of America’s First Britannica 1789-1803 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991 ). On the relationship between Dobson and Elliot, see: Sher, The Enlightenment and the Book, 386-87, 545-47, and 559; McDougall Warren, “Charles Elliot’s Book Adventure in Philadelphia, and the Trouble with Thomas Dobson,” in Light on the Book Trade: Essays to Peter Isaac, eds. McKay Barry, Hinks John, and Bell Maureen (Newcastle: Oak Knoll, 2004), 197-212 . Another edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which was almost identical to the Scottish one, was printed in Dublin in 1791 by the bookseller James Moore under the title of Moore’s Dublin Edition.

19. “Scotland”: EB1 3:571; EB2 9:6988-7173; and EB3 16:722-99. “Edinburgh”: EB1 1:466-67; EB2 4:2610-23; and EB3 6:298-321. “Smoke” (EB1 3:607-13) was probably written by James Anderson (1739-1808), who had studied chemistry with William Cullen before becoming a specialist in agriculture and political economy. Anderson was probably also the author of “Dictionary” and “Pneumatics.” See Kafker and Loveland, Early Britannica, 19, 21, and 33. In EB3 (17:547-53), the main source on pollution became Benjamin Franklin. There are many more examples of “Scotticisms”: for example, a large part of the article “Law” is devoted to “Law in Scotland” in all editions, including the American one.

20. Sher, The Enlightenment and the Book, 556-60.

21. William Robertson did not seem to be acquainted with EB1 and its publishers when, in August 1773, he answered the question put to him by his main French translator, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Suard, who thought it was a revised version of the Encyclopédie. See Darnton, Business of Enlightenment, 45-50, 58-59, 86-88, 395-402, and 421-22.

22. From the first edition, Smellie took sides against Hume in the quarrel over miracles; he supported George Campbell, the Principal of Marischal College in Aberdeen, whose Dissertation on Miracles had been published in 1762: “Abridgement,” EB1 1:6-7. On criticism of Kames’s polygenism, see “America,” EB2 1:303-8 and below.

23. In a letter to the Monthly Review in August 1765, Smellie vindicated the philosophy of Common Sense, which had been published in Thomas Reid’s Inquiry into the Human Mind (Edinburgh: A. Kincaid & J. Bell, 1764). In it, he expressed his conviction that the same “constitution of our nature” leads man to believe in principles such as the existence of external objects, “without being able to give any other reason for our belief than by referring to the common sense of mankind.” See Kerr, Memoirs, 1:304-16. In the article “Sense, common,” as integrated into the appendix of vol. 10 in EB2, adherence to the Aberdeen philosophers of Common Sense—such as James Beattie, George Campbell, James Oswald, and Thomas Reid (EB2 10:9158)—was voiced. This was also expressed in the articles “Ideas” (EB2 10:9104-7) and “Theology” (EB2 10:8582-90): philosophy and theology were “closely linked,” as revealed religion was based on natural religion, and the latter had to be understood in a philosophical sense. The blind poet Thomas Blacklock, a friend of James Beattie and Tytler’s contributor, to whom Gleig ascribed the preface of EB2 (see Supplement to the Third Edition 1:78-80), published an anonymous reply to Joseph Priestley’s criticism of the Common Sense Philosophy in the Edinburgh Magazine and Review (vol. 2, 1774, pp. 771-79; vol. 3, 1775, pp. 33-37, 96-102, and 146-54). A passage from the Introduction (EB2 1:III) restates the principles of Common Sense philosophy, such as the Lockean philosophy of the mind as a tabula rasa. See Kafker and Loveland , Early Britannica, 76, 96, and 133-134 .

24. Reid Thomas, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (Edinburgh: J. & J. Robinson, 1785), 523 .

25. “Preface,” EB1, v. This statement was repeated by Gleig in the third edition: EB3 1:V and IX. On this central methodological issue, see Abbattista Guido, “La ‘folie de la raison par alphabet.’ Le origini settecentesche dell’Encyclopaedia Britannica 1768-1801,” in L’enciclopedismo in Italia nel XVIII secolo, ed. Abbattista Guido (Naples: Studi Settecenteschi, 1996), 435-76 ; Yeo Richard, Encyclopaedic Visions. Scientific Dictionaries and Enlightenment Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 170-92 ; and Loveland Jeff, “Unifying Knowledge and Dividing Disciplines: the Development of Treatises in the Encyclopaedia Britannica ,” Book History 9 (2006): 57-87 . Loveland sees in Coetlogon’s Universal History a model for the Britannica. See Loveland Jeff, An Alternative Encyclopaedia? Coetlogon’s Universal History (1745) (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2010).

26. “Preface,” EB2, III-IV.

27. Walker , Life of the Right Reverend George Gleig, 218 .

28. EB3 1:IX.

29. The costs of the various editions are recorded in detail by Kafker and Loveland, Early Britannica. With the third edition, the Encyclopaedia Britannica became “a compulsory acquisition for any self-respecting multi-disciplinary institution.” See Yeo, Encyclopedic Visions, 51. For a more general analysis, see: Clair William St., The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Allan David, A Nation of Readers: The Lending Library in Georgian England (London: The British Library, 2008).

30. “America,” EB2 1:302.

31. “America,” EB1 1:134-35.

32. “America,” EB2 1:302-5. The challenge is repeated word-for-word in EB3 1:562-65. Home Henry, Kames Lord, Sketches of the History of Man, 2 tomes (Edinburgh/London: W. Creech/W. Strahan/T. Cadell, 1774). See “The Diversity of Men, and of Languages,” where Kames takes up many arguments from Voltaire’s Philosophie de l’histoire (Amsterdam: Changuion, 1765), which has served as the introduction to Essai sur les mœurs since 1769. Kames is frequently cited in the Britannica with regard to aesthetics, particularly his Elements of Criticism (Edinburgh: A. Kincaid & J. Bell, 1762).

33. “America,” EB2 1:299.

34. The sources I have been able to identify as references for EB2 are the following: Forster Georg, A Voyage Round the World in his Britannic Majesty’s Sloap, Resolution, Commanded by Capt. James Cook, during the Years 1772, 3, 4 and 5, 2 vols. (London: B. White, 1777); La Condamine Charles Marie de, A Succint Abridgement of a Voyage, Made in the Inland Parts of America from the French of M. de la Condamine (1745) (London: E. Withers, 1747 ); La Condamine Charles Marie de, Journal du voyage fait par ordre du Roi (Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1751 ); and Juan George and Ulloa Antonio de, A Voyage to South-America (1748-49) (London: L. Davis and C. Reymers, 1758), reprinted with notes by John Adams in 1772. On Ulloa’s Noticias Americanas, see note 103. See also Safier Neil, Measuring the New World: Enlightenment Science and South America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).

35. Switzer Richard, “America in the Encyclopédie ,” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 58 (1967): 1481-99 ; Gerbi, La disputa del Nuovo Mondo, chap. 4.

36. On anti-imperialism in Raynal’s Histoire des Deux Indes, which is the major source for the representation of the New World in the Encyclopédie d’Yverdon, see Muthu Sankar, Enlightenment Against Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 72-121 .

37. The theory of stages has been addressed in a number of different historiographical analyses, for which the main references may be found in the updated bibliography at the end of Trevor-Roper Hugh R., History and the Enlightenment: Eighteenth Century Essays, ed. Robertson John (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010). On the role of America in the new historical vision of British Enlightenment, see Armitage David, “The New World and British Historical Thought. From Richard Hakluyt to William Robertson,” in America in European Consciousness, 1493-1750, ed. Kupperman Karen Ordahl (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 52-75 .

38. Robertson William, History of America, 3 vols., 5th ed. (London: W. Strahan, 1788 ), book IV, 2:52. Robertson applies to America what Smith had taught in his lectures on jurisprudence in Glasgow: “The difference of employment occasions the difference of genius and we see accordingly that amongst savages, where there is very little diversity of employment, there is hardly any diversity of temper or genius.” Smith Adam, Lectures on Jurisprudence, eds. Meek Ronald L., Raphael David Daiches, and Stein Peter (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), 348 ; Smith Adam, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 3rd ed. 1790; repr. 1984), 200-9 . See Sebastiani Silvia, “National Characters and Race: A Scottish Enlightenment Debate,” in Being Sociable: Character and Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century Scotland, eds. Ahnert Thomas and Manning Susan (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 187-205 .

39. Sebastiani Silvia, I limiti del progresso. Razza e genere nell’Illuminismo scozzese (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2008).

40. Meek Ronald L., Social Science and the Ignoble Savage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976 ).

41. “America,” EB2 1:301. On the conception of women in Enlightenment historical discourse, see: Knott Sarah and Taylor Barbara, eds., Women, Gender and the Enlightenment (London: Palgrave, 2005); Dorlin Elsa, La matrice de la race : généalogie sexuelle et coloniale de la nation française (Paris: La Découverte, 2006 ); and O’Brien Karen, Women and Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009 ). See also Wilson Kathleen, The Island Race: Englishness, Empire, and Gender in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Routledge, 2003).

42. Buffon asserted this in volume III of the Histoire Naturelle sur les quadrupèdes, in the part devoted to common animals in both the Old and New Worlds. The sentence was quoted, only to be rejected, by Thomas Jefferson, who opposed his own experience and direct observation to the philosophers who formulated their ideas without ever leaving their study. See Jefferson Thomas, Notes on the State of Virginia (1781-1782), ed. Peden William (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1955), 59 . For a commentary, see Duchet Michèle, Anthropologie et histoire au siècle des Lumières (Paris: Albin Michel, 1971; repr. 1995), 265 .

43. “America,” EB2 1:299-301.

44. Pocock John G. A., Barbarism and Religion, vol. 2, Narratives of Civil Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 316-28 and 4:157-204.

45. Koselleck Reinhart, Le futur passé. Contribution à la sémantique des temps historiques, trans. Hoock Jochen and Hoock Marie-Claire (Paris: Éd. de l’EHESS, 1979; repr. 1990); Osterhammel Jürgen, “Modi di rappresentazione dell’estraneo nel Settecento: l’esperienza della distanza,” Comunità 43.191/192 (1989): 36-68 ; Ginzburg Carlo, Occhiacci di legno. Nove riflessioni sulla distanza (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1998), 194-210 ; and Hartog François, Régimes d’historicité. Présentisme et expériences du temps (Paris: Le Seuil, 2002).

46. Brown Stewart J., ed., William Robertson and the Expansion of Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); O’Brien Karen, Narratives of Enlightenment: Cosmopolitan History from Voltaire to Gibbon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 93-166 ; and Pocock, Barbarism and Religion, 2:316-28 and 4:181-204.

47. “Europe”: EB2 4:2860; EB3 7:39-40. For an analysis of Europeans in British encyclopedias, see Stock Paul, “‘Almost a Separate Race.’ Racial Thought and the Idea of Europe in British Encyclopaedias and Histories, 1771-1830,” Modern Intellectual History 8-1 (2011): 3-29 .

48. Cañizares-Esguerra, How to Write the History of the New World.

49. According to Arnaldo Momigliano, this was the basis of modern historiography: “Storia antica e antiquaria,” “Il contributo di Gibbon al metodo storico,” and “Preludio Settecentesco a Gibbon,” in Sui fondamenti della storia antica (Turin: Einaudi, 1984), 3-45, 294-311, and 312-27.

50. Robertson William, History of Scotland, 2 vols. (London: A. Millar, 1759); Robertson William, The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V. With a View of the Progress of Civil Society in Europe from the Subversion of the Roman Empire to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century, 3 vols. (London: W. & W. Strahan, 1769).

51. Mckenzie Daniel F., Oral Culture, Literacy and Print in Early New Zealand. The Treaty of Waitangi (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1985); Mckenzie Daniel F., Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (London: The British Library, 1986).

52. Certeau Michel de, Préface , in L’écriture de l’histoire, 2e éd. (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1980 ).

53. Robertson, History of America, book VIII, 3:299.

54. Brown Stewart J., “An Eighteenth-Century Historian on the Amerindians: Culture, Colonialism and Christianity in William Robertson’s History of America,” Studies in World Christianity 2 (1996): 204-22 ; Smitten Jeffrey, “Impartiality in Robertson’s History of America,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 19 (1989): 56-77 .

55. “America,” EB2 1:298-99 and 302.

56. “Mexico,” EB2 7:4967-88, quotation p. 4988. “Peru,” EB2 8:5981-96. The other source on Peru that is quoted is La Condamine’s Relation abrégée.

57. “Colony,” EB2 3:2076-80; “Plantership,” EB2 8:6212-19.

58. “America;” EB3 1:552.

59. Kruse Paul, “The Story of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1768-1943,” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1958), 56-57 ; Arner, Dobson’s Encyclopaedia, 83.

60. On Robertson’s role as leader of the moderate party and the Scottish Enlightenment, see Sher Richard B., Church and University in the Scottish Enlightenment: The Moderate Literati of Edinburgh (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1985 ).

61. Clavigero Francisco Javier, Storia antica del Messico cavata da’ migliori storici Spagnuoli, e da’ manoscriti, e dalle pitture antiche degl’Indiani, 2 vols. (Cesena: Gregorio Biasini all’Insagna di Pallade, 1780-1781). On Clavijero’s biography and historical work, see: Ronan Charles E., Francisco Javier Clavigero, S.J. (1731-1787), Figure of the Mexican Enlightenment: His Life and Works (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1977); Brading David A., The Origins of Mexican Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 3-23 ; Brading David A., The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots and the Liberal State, 1492-1867 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 253-72 and 422-64; Pagden Anthony, Spanish Imperialism and the Political Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 91-116 ); Cañizares-Esguerra , How to Write the History of the New World, 60-62, 186-90, and 235-49 ; Pocock , Barbarism and Religion 4:205-26 ; and Bolaños Arturo Reynoso, “Naturaleza e historia. Análisis de la visión científica y teológica de Francisco Xavier Clavigero (1731-1787), un jesuita mexicano en el Siglo de las Luces,” (PhD diss., Centre Sèvres, Paris, 2011).

62. Clavigero Francisco Javier, The History of Mexico: Collected from Spanish and Mexican Historians, from Manuscripts, and Ancient Paintings of the Indians ..., trans. Cullen Charles, Esq., 2 vols. (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787; repr. London: 1807; repr. Philadelphia: 1804 and 1817; and repr. Richmond: 1806). This English translation formed the basis of the German one, published in Leipzig in 1790. The first Spanish version, translated from the Italian by José Joaquín de Mora, was published at R. Ackerman’s publishing house in London in 1826. In the twentieth century, Clavijero’s original Spanish text was published in an edition established by Mariano Cuevas (Mexico: Porrúa, 1945).

63. See McKelvey James Lee, “William Robertson and Lord Bute,” Studies in Scottish Literature 6 (1968-1969): 238-47 ; Brown Stewart J., “Robertson and the Scottish Enlightenment,” in William Robertson and the Expansion of the Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 7-35 . In his dedication, Cullen referred to “the Obligation I am under to your Lordship for an Acquaintance with the Original” from Clavijero, which seems to indicate that Lord Bute had given him the book.

64. Sher, The Enlightenment and the Book, 390 and Appendix.

65. W. Robertson to Lord Elliock, ms. 1036, fol. 106, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh; Robertson, preface to History of America, XVIII-XIX. Regarding this quarrel, see Sebastiani Silvia, “Las escrituras de la historia del Nuevo Mundo: Clavijero y Robertson en el contexto de la Ilustración europea,” Historia y Grafía 37 (2011): 203-36 .

66. Smith Samuel Stanthope, An Essay on the Causes of the Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species ... A New Edition with Some Additional Notes, by a Gentleman of the University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh: C. Elliott, 1788).

67. During the same period, Barton wrote his medical dissertation against the image of Indians conveyed by Principal Robertson, which was to remain a controversial topic throughout his works: “An Essay toward a Natural History of the North American Indians. Being an Attempt to Describe, and to Investigate the Causes of Some of the Varieties in Figure, in Complexion etc. among Mankind” (1788-1790), ms. Records, vol. XXIII, fols. 1-17, Archives of the Royal Medical Society, Edinburgh.

68. “Chronology,” EA 4:748-75. “A Chronological Table of Remarkable Events, Discoveries, and Inventions, from the Creation [viz. 4008 BC] to the Year 1789” concludes the article, adding the two fundamental dates, 1787 and 1789, as opposed to EB3, of which the chronology ended with 1783, the date when the Independence of the American Colonies was recognized. The EA continues up until the French Constitution of August 6, 1789, preceded by the March meeting of the first Congress of the USA.

69. Such is the opinion of Cullen in his preface to F. J. Clavijero, History of Mexico 1:v.

70. Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 59; Franklin Benjamin, “Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, peopling of Countries, & c” (1751), in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, eds. Labaree Leonard W. et al. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961), 3:234 . On the relationship between the observer and the historian, see Hartog François, Évidence de l’histoire. Ce que voient les historiens (Paris: Éd. de l’EHESS, 2005 ).

71. Hartog François, Anciens, modernes, sauvages (Paris: Galaade, 2005); Certeau Michel de, “Histoire et anthropologie chez Lafitau” (1980) in Le lieu de l’autre. Histoire religieuse et mystique, ed. Giard Luce (Paris: Le Seuil - Gallimard, 2005), 89-111 ; Revel Jacques, “The Uses of Comparison. Religions in the Early Eighteenth Century,” in Bernard Picart and the First Global Vision of Religion, eds. Hunt Lynn A. et al. (Los Angeles: Ghetty Research Institute, 2010), 331-47 .

72. Cañizares-Esguerra, How to Write the History of the New World, 63. My interpretation differs from that of Cañizares in what I perceive to be the epistemological limits of Clavijero’s Christian universalism, which I attempt to explain in the latter part of this analysis.

73. See Curto Diogo Ramada, ed., The Jesuits and Cultural Intermediacy in Early Modern World, Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu, LXXIV/147, 2005 ; Castelnau-L’Éstoile Charlotte de et al., eds., Missions d’évangélisation et circulation des savoirs. XVIe-XVIIIe siècle (Madrid : Casa de Velázquez, 2011 ).

74. Monthly Review 76 (1787): 633-40. The quotation refers to Clavijero’s “Dissertation VI,” 633. The same review was published in the Scots Magazine 49 (1787): 446-49 and 548-51. See also The English Review, or, An Abstract of English and Foreign Literature 9 (1787): 401-10; 10 (1787): 170-82; and 11 (1787): 176-87, which says that Clavijero’s history gives “authentic information” about Mexico, past and present.

75. “Who would imagine, from the pomp and gravity of this account that the author was speaking of a parcel of illiterate savages?” Clavijero’s history is described as “an enormous structure of two solid quartos stuffed with impossible facts, absurd exaggerations, and such a barbarous jargon of uncouth names, as to be within one degree of absolute unintelligibility. ... For our part, if Robertson be wrong, we are content to be wrong with him.” The European Magazine, and London Review 12 (1787): 16-18 and 125-29, quotations on pp. 16-17 and 18.

76. Clavijero was described as capable of observing “with the eye of a philosopher” and of arranging “from the natives exact information with respect to every object of any consequence”; he could be considered “an ocular witness of what he relates,” who opened “some new sources of evidence” on “the state and progress of civilization and arts in Mexico.”

77. “Moral Philosophy,” EB3 12:272-318. The quotation is an excerpt from the new introduction to the entry the “History of the Science of Morals,” written by Gleig, 273. The rest of the article mainly follows what had been abridged by Smellie on the basis of Fordyce David, Elements of Moral Philosophy (London: R. & J. Dodsley, 1754 ).

78. Robertson John, “The Scottish Enlightenment,” Rivista Storica Italiana 108 (1996), 792-829 ; Robertson John, The Case for the Enlightenment: Scotland and Naples 1680-1760 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 1-51 .

79. For more details, see Sebastiani Silvia, “Conjectural History vs. the Bible: Eighteenth-Century Scottish Historians and the Idea of History in the Encyclopaedia Britannica,” Storia della Storiografia 39 (2001), 39-50 .

80. Smith Adam, “Considerations Concerning the First Formation of Languages” (1761), published as an appendix to the third edition of the Theory of Moral Sentiments (Edinburgh: A. Kincaid et J. Bell, 1767). See “Language,” EB3 9:529-61. The article, which was written by Gleig and followed by a long note written by the philologist David Doig on the original language, focused on the “veritable,” or divine, origin of language. In this entry, Adam Smith was associated with Rousseau, Voltaire, and Condillac, as opposed to James Beattie and Samuel Stanhope Smith.

81. “Comparative Anatomy,” EB3 5:249-74. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Lord Monboddo—a Scottish Judge in the Court of Session in Edinburgh and author of the six-volume Of the Origin and Progress of Language (Edinburgh: J. Balfour, 1773-1792)—were the principal targets of the article for having, on the one hand, reduced the wild man to the animal level, and, on the other hand, for having raised the orang-outang to the rank of human being.

82. “History,” EB3 8:561-600, quotation on p. 561. The article was not very different from the one published in EB2 (5:3649-88); it devoted a whole section to “Ecclesiastical History” and was essentially based upon biblical chronology. See also in EB3: “Creation” 5:522-26; “Earth” 6:229-64; “Instinct” 9:259-69; “Moral Philosophy” 12:272; “Religion” 16:61; and “Savage” 16:672.

83. Gleig George, “Advertissement,” in Two Letters on the Savage State, addressed to the late Lord Kames, by Doig David (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1792), XIII . This text was written in 1774 but only published twenty years later. David Doig (1719-1800) wrote the articles “Mythology,” “Mysteries,” and “Philology” for EB3.

84. “Society,” EB3 17:568-90, quotation on p. 569. Robert Heron (1764-1807) was a marginal figure in Scottish circles, having spent several years in prison for debt. He contributed to many journals and newspapers, such as the Edinburgh Magazine, the London Review, the Universal Magazine, and the Anti-Jacobin Review. He was also the author of A New General History of Scotland (Perth: R. Morrison, 1794-1799) and the New and Complete System of Universal Geography, To Which is Added a Philosophical View of Universal History (Edinburgh: R. Morison, 1796).

85. “Religion,” EB3 16:62.

86. “Moral Philosophy,” EB3 12:273.

87. “Society,” EB3 17:569.

88. “Savage,” EB3 16:672.

89. Smith, An Essay, note h by Barton, p. 108. Quoting Doig in the second American edition of his Essay (New Brunswick: J. Simpson and Co., 1810), Smith added a whole section against the universal and primordial savage state (pp. 15-27). Barton did likewise, whereas, in New Views of the Origin of the Tribes and Nations of America (Philadelphia: J. Bioren, 1797), he put forward a sophisticated justification of American republicanism using Clavijero as an alternative model to Robertson.

90. On internal tensions within the discourse on progress in the Scottish Enlightenment, see Sebastiani, I limiti del progresso.

91. “Savage,” EB3 16:672-73; Doig, Two Letters, 64-68.

92. “Miracle,” EB3 12:169-74, quotation on p. 170. This article was also written by Gleig.

93. “Savage,” EB3 16:672.

94. Gleig George, Some Account of the Life and Writings of William Robertson (Edinburgh: 1812), lvi . In direct opposition to the criticism addressed by Dugald Stewart to Robertson in 1796 about Robertson’s excessive indulgence toward destructions caused by the Spanish, see Biographical Memoirs of Adam Smith, L.L.D., of William Robertson, D.D. and of Thomas Reid, D.D. Read Before the Royal Society of Edinburgh ... (Edinburgh: G. Ramsay and Co.,1811), 241-42. Otherwise the aim of Gleig’s biography of a “Presbyterian Divine” was to present his Episcopalian version of Scottish ecclesiastical history.

95. “Mexico,” EB3 11:633-86. The article “Peru” (EB3 14:199-221) is also enriched by six pages on the Incas taken from The New Universal Traveler (London: G. Robinson, 1779) by Jonathan Carver, an American soldier, explorer, and author of the popular Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768 (London: J. Walter, 1778).

96. In the new version of the article “Colony” (EB3 5:148-50), commercial colonies lose the positive connotations they had in EB2 (see note 56).

97. “America,” EB3 1:161-62. These are the first lines of the Remarks Concerning the Savages of North-America (1784), in The Bagatelles from Passy, by Benjamin Franklin, ed. Claude A. Lopez (New York: Eakins Press, 1967).

98. “Monster,” EB3 12:245-49.

99. “America,” EB3 1:574-617.

100. “Brasil”: EB2 2:1353-55; EB3 3:516-18. “California”: EB2 3:1578-80; EB3 4:41-42. “Chili”: EB2 3:1903-5; EB3 4:647-49. “Paraguay”: EB2 8:5857-58; EB3 13:729-33. In fact, the Encyclopédie of Yverdon paid a great deal of attention to these same articles, doubling their length or rewriting them completely. See Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, “De l’Encyclopédie de Paris à l’Encyclopédie d’Yverdon : la diffusion de savoirs sur le monde colonial (l’exemple de l’Amérique latine)” in L’Encyclopédie d’Yverdon et sa résonance européenne. Contextes, contenus, continuités, eds. Jean-Daniel Candeaux et al. (Paris: H. Champion, 2005), 256-76.

101. “America,” EB3 1:574 and 617. Regarding the political side of the article, see Castagneto Pierangelo, “Uomo, natura e società nelle edizioni settecentesche dell’Encyclopaedia Britannica” in L’enciclopedismo in Italia nel XVIII secolo, ed. Abbattista Guido (Naples: Studi Settecenteschi, 1996), 435-76 . As expected, this section underwent the most changes in the American version revised by Jedidiah Morse, the EA’s most important contributor and author of Geography Made Easy (New Haven: Meigs, Bowen, and Dana, 1784) and American Geography (Elizabeth Town: 1789), which were already important sources on the United States for EB3. For an in-depth discussion of the changes that took beyond the Atlantic, see: Arner, Dobson’s Encyclopaedia; Arner Robert D., “Thomas Dobson’s American Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica ,” Notable Encyclopaedias of the Late Eighteenth Century: Eleven Successors of the Encyclopédie, ed. Kafker Frank A. (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1994), 201-54 .

102. “Comparative Anatomy,” EB3 5:249-74; “Complexion,” EB3 5:286-90. Some passages are directly taken from the account published in the Monthly Review about Eberhardt August Wilhelm von Zimmermann, Geographische Geschichte des Menschen (Leipzig: Weygandschen Buchhandlung, 1778-83): vols. 80, 1789, 678-90; vols. 81, 1789, pp. 633-41. Texts by Zimmermann, Johannn Friedrich Blumenbach, and Petrus Camper—Dutch physician and member of the Royal Society—along with observations by Samuel Stanhope Smith, define the scientific framework of EB3, in opposition to “false ignorance.”

103. Gascoigne John, “Blumenbach, Banks, and the Beginnings of Anthropology at Göttingen,” in Göttingen and the Development of the Natural Sciences, ed. Rupke Nicolaas A. (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2002), 86-98 ; Ewan Joseph and Ewan Nesta Dunn, Benjamin Smith Barton. Naturalist and Physician in Jeffersonian America (St Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden, 2007); and Bödeker Hans Erich et al., eds., Göttingen vers 1800. L’Europe des sciences de l’homme (Paris: Éd. du Cerf, 2008; repr. 2010).

104. “America,” EB3 1:542-43, mentions the French translation of the Noticias Americanas: Mémoires philosophiques, historiques, physiques, concernant la découverte de l’Amérique ... Avec des observations&additions ... Traduit par M***, 2 vols. (Paris: Buisson, 1787). M*** is Le Febvre de Villebrune, a physician who also translated Gian Rinaldo Carli’s Lettres américaines (Paris: Buisson, 1788). Observations and additions are by J. G. Schneider, who had commented the German version, published in Leipzig in 1781.

105. “America,” EB3 1:551.

106. “America,” EB3 1:560; Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 113-14. The EA no longer gave any credence to Ulloa’s thesis.

107. “America,” EB3 1:552-53; EA 1:583, with slight variations; and Clavijero, History of Mexico 2:331-32.

108. This is an almost literal translation of excerpts from Buffon, Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roy (Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1749), 3:371-530, in particular pp. 371-73, 381, and 401.

109. “Slavery is, indeed, in every form an evil; but it ... can be advantageously removed only by degrees,” that is when Blacks attain a level of “moral cultivation” that will “enable them to support the rank and discharge the duties of free men.” Their physical appearance and the color of their skin are not only the result of the climate, but also of their wild way of life. Access to civilization will whiten their skin. In EB3, see: “Slavery” 12:522-34, quotation on p. 533; “Negroe” 12:794-98; “Ethiopia” 6:743-800; “Guinea” 8:177-90; “Assiento” 2:404-5; and “Hispaniola,” Supplement, 1:741-43. Smith, p. 99 sq.

110. “Man,” Supplement 2:164-65.

* This paper is the result of research undertaken with a Marie Curie postdoctoral scholarship at the EHESS. Parts of it have been discussed during several international symposia (in Budapest, Florence, Trieste, São Paulo, Edinburgh, and Mexico City), as well as at the EHESS in the seminar on the history of missions and in that on Britishness. I would like to thank all those who, on these various occasions, contributed with diverse questions and, in particular, those who followed the evolution of this latest version: Catherine Bouchey, Adrien Delmas, Alice Ingold, Antoine Lilti, Jacques Revel, Antonella Romano, Hélène Soldini, and Stéphane Van Damme.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales - English Edition
  • ISSN: 2398-5682
  • EISSN: 2268-3763
  • URL: /core/journals/annales-histoire-sciences-sociales-english-edition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 1 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 48 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 16th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.